Lydia, 11, set to be next GB sprint star at Rio Paralympic Games
A schoolgirl who lost both legs to meningitis is being tipped as the next Paralympic star by the woman who trained champion sprinter Jonnie Peacock.
Lydia Cross, 11, whose legs were amputated when she was just two, is being taught to run on blades by Hayley Ginn, 27.
Ms Ginn coached men’s T44 100m winner Peacock until last year and is now training Lydia up to be the potential star of the Rio Games in 2016.
Lydia lost her legs as a toddler in Chippenham after contracting meningitis – as did sprint hero Peacock, who she lists as her idol, alongside South African runner Oscar Pistorius, whom she saw race at the London Games.
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Lydia, who now lives in Braunton, Devon, said: “I went to the Paralympics and got a day pass, it was great; I watched basketball, tennis and even got to see Oscar in the athletics, it was amazing.
“I think I am going to make it to Rio, and my friends expect me to go there so that’s good too. My favourite event is the 100m because I think I am quite good at that one, my training is going really well.”
Ms Ginn, who coaches Lydia on her running blades, has told her parents that she has huge potential.
She said: “She is very young and her progress all depends on what she wants to do. If she takes running seriously as she develops and gets stronger she’ll be very good indeed.
“She is also very mature for her age; she is only 11 but when I met her I was shocked, I thought she was about 15.
“In terms of Rio I think she has the character for it and determination, although she is very young and it is very hard. We don’t want to push her but at the same time the earlier she starts the better.
‘‘I don’t want to put too much pressure on her but if she wants to do it then I believe she can get to Rio, she is improving massively every day.”
Lydia fell ill with septicaemia which caused multiple organ failure and gangrene leading to the loss of her legs below the knee.
She later won a £1.78m pay-out after a doctor admitted he could have done more to help her when she first fell ill.
Her first sport was wheelchair racing but recently she began running on special athletic blades.
Mum Jodie, 42, said: “It all started after a coach named Job King saw her on her blades.
“She was only around eight years old but last year when she was ten he gave me a call and asked if she was interested in athletics.
“He wanted to meet her, even though she told me she hated running, and when he came down Lydia was waiting for her bones to be trimmed, so it was painful when she wore the blades.
“She ran with them anyway and I thought she wasn’t going very fast, but he said she was so I just took his word for it.
“He then introduced her to wheelchair racing because when her legs were feeling painful she didn’t have to use them.
“She met Hayley through Job at the North Devon Athletics Club where she runs with able-bodied people.
“As soon as they met they hit it off. Now Hayley is like one of the family, she’s great.”